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Public Service Board Requests More Information on Power Line Upgrade
John Dillon    

MONTPELIER, VT (2004-07-07)    
(Host) State utility regulators have pushed back the schedule for their review of a major power line proposal for western Vermont. The Public Service Board also wants much more information about the $128 million project.
VPR's John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) In a recent ruling, the Public Service Board told the Vermont Electric Power Company to supply new details for the power line that's planned to run between West Rutland and South Burlington.
The board wants new information about eight specific locations, including Route 17 in New Haven, Ferry Road in Charlotte and the intersection of Routes 7 and 125 in East Middlebury. The board says computer-generated images of how the project will affect scenic views in these areas should prevent controversial issues from cropping up at the last minute.
But the board also pushed back the date of its final decision from October to January. VELCO spokesman David Mace says the company is worried about the delay.
(Mace) "VELCO is concerned about having this unprecedented level of review that this project is being subjected to because of its potential to delay construction. We certainly intend to comply with the Public Service Board's order requiring these additional detailed plans for the project in these specified areas. But it remains unclear whether we can still meet the proposed schedule of having the first phase of the project operating in December, 2005."
(Dillon) The board also wants design details for parts of the project, including specifications for the height, width and color for each power line pole. According to Mace, this sort of information is usually provided after the board gives its overall approval for a project.
(Mace) "And this is generally seen as a question of efficiency because doing this level of design work is extremely expensive and to complete it and then have the board either reject the project or substantially alter the design greatly increases the cost of the project to ratepayers."
(Dillon) Business groups, including the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the board that they're worried about the potential for delay. But the town of New Haven, which is fighting the power line proposal, said the board didn't give it enough time to prepare its case or respond to VELCO's new information.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.